Keeping Us Awake: 11 Bad Habits to Break for Better Sleep and Brain Health
Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial to supporting a healthy brain. Research suggests that inadequate sleep can hinder a person’s memory, mood, mental acuity and more. Adults need at least seven hours of sleep nightly to support optimal health, according to scientific consensus.
But how do we achieve that goal in today’s fast-paced, plugged-in world? What’s sabotaging our shuteye? Below are 11 bad habits — and several good habits — that pharmacists can discuss with their clients to ensure better sleep:
#1 Watch the Caffeine: Coffees, teas, and other caffeinated beverages have long been prized for their ability to perk up people and keep them awake. Popular drinks that we consume in the morning, however, shouldn’t be taken shortly before we hit the sack. Try noncaffeinated herbal teas instead.
#2 Stop Eating at Bedtime: Plopping into bed after a heavy meal may seem like the natural thing to do. But your stomach is still working hard to digest the food, and lying down can potentially cause indigestion and heartburn, two factors that can keep you awake. Give yourself at least two hours to digest dinner before bed, and make any midnight snack on the lighter side.
#3 Reduce Alcohol Consumption: While a nightcap might induce drowsiness before bedtime, too much alcohol can disrupt your sleep cycle and may even stoke nightmares. Avoid imbibing near bedtime and seek to moderate your alcohol consumption overall.
#4 Don’t Smoke: Besides the many health benefits of not smoking, giving up tobacco eliminates your exposure to nicotine, a stimulant that can disrupt sleep.
#5 Avoid Excessive Napping: Taking an afternoon siesta may sound appealing, but don’t let it go on too long. Researchers recommend limiting naps to less than 30 minutes and making sure they’re taken well before actual lights out. Otherwise, you won’t be sleepy when it really counts.
#6 Stop Working Out at Bedtime: There’s no question that regular exercise is great for your health. But heavy exercise right before bedtime can stimulate the body with endorphins, making it harder to unwind and fall asleep. Save the burn for earlier in the day.
#7 Turn Off Those Screens: Mobile technology is everywhere, but it shouldn’t be in your bed. Checking smartphones, tablets and laptops can make your mind race rather than relax. Save the technology for daytime and read a good book (on paper) instead.
#8 Turn Off the Music: Many people enjoy winding down with music before bedtime. But this can lead to musical “earworms” that result in poor sleep quality, one recent study suggests. If an endless loop of your favorite song is running through your head, consider avoiding music right before bed.
# 9 Don’t Play the Night Owl: While many of us have pulled all-nighters studying for an exam, it’s not a good habit to keep. Night owls can be sleep deprived and find themselves at risk of poor health. Try to keep to a reasonable sleep schedule instead.
#10 Stop Worrying: Our minds often race over looming tasks and deadlines, making it hard to sleep. Each night, try writing down tomorrow’s to-do list, and set aside those worrying thoughts.
#11 Stop Tossing and Turning: If you’re still twisting in bed after 20 minutes of trying to fall asleep, consider getting up and walking around for a bit. The goal is to associate lying in bed with actually sleeping.
Bonus Tip: Good sleep hygiene includes ensuring your bedroom is tranquil, your mattress is comfortable, and your sleep schedule is consistent.